Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Grow for Quality, not Quantity

Modern production agriculture has been striving for increased yield ever since I can remember. Farmers are trying anything that will give them even a slight yield increase. We should take another look at what makes a quality yield instead of a quantity yield.

Everything that can be done to increase early, vigorous root growth increases the quality of the crop. This holds true for grains, fruits, and vegetables. When the root system is dominant, there is more uniform branching and increased flowering. Seed heads on grain are fuller with less shriveled seeds. Fruit has more fruit spurs with better set and more uniform development.

This happens because the roots are the brains of the plant and the purpose of the plant is reproduction. With that in mind why would it not want to put out as many high-quality offspring as possible? The conflict comes in when we try to push for quantity. To do this we increase rates of fertilizer, mostly nitrogen, over water, and basically take the brains of the plant and give them a real hard shake. What we do in excess can totally mess up the plant’s hormonal direction and increase the internal stress level. So the crop we get may have increased in number or volume but internal quality and storability is lacking.

Develop the root system, reduce plant stress and let the plant do its job. You’ll both be happy.